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Managing travel plans during COVID-19 scare is complicated

Travel agents say there is a lot of confusion
Posted at 4:23 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 19:45:20-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A handful of flights were canceled Monday in Colorado Springs and hundreds more were canceled at Denver International Airport as Coronavirus concerns continue to impact travel. Travel agents are trying to help people navigate the uncertainty, but say this is a unique time for the travel industry.

Families across the country are having to reconsider spring break trips, even summer vacations as Coronavirus concerns play out. Travel agents say many of their customers and people trying to figure out travel plans are in a tough spot.

"I think as far as any normalcy to travel it's going to be a long time before we really get back to that," said Charlie Brown who runs Charlie Brown's Goodtime Travel, a Colorado Springs based travel agency.

Travel agents across the country say at this point in time they are playing therapist for travelers more than booking vacations. Many people say they're getting stuck on hold for hours trying to cancel or reschedule vacations and travel plans they booked for themselves.

"It's a lot of confusion right now. I'm encouraging most of my clients to, if it's something they feel like they'll never be able to do again and they need to cancel and that opportunity hasn't come up as of yet, you know let's wait as close as we can to the time they are going to travel because things do change," said Brown.

Brown has worked as a travel agent for decades and says this is a unique time for the industry. He believes on the other side of this Coronavirus crisis the hurting travel industry could come roaring back.

"My feeling is that there is going to be a pent up demand," said Brown. "People are tired of being indoors, they want to go out, they want to meet with their friends. You know, they want to become humans again and be able to do the things they've always done."

Travel experts are anticipating the number of flights being offered by most airlines to be scaled back in the coming months. With this in mind Brown says anyone wanting to reschedule, or make plans for the first time needs to plan ahead.

"Just kind of know where you want to go because as they are canceling these trips for people now, people now are taking up a lot of spots for later in the summer, or next year. So, it is going to get more crowded trying to get those future trips booked when you want them," said Brown.

For those who do plan to fly, there has been a serious emphasis on making sure airplane cabins are deep cleaned for the safety of all those traveling. Southwest Airlines says its employees spend at least six hours a night deep cleaning their aircraft.

If you are still undecided on what to do about your travel plans, or if you should even book that summer vacation, the CDC has a list of questions that could help you make the best decision to help keep you safe.

Things to consider before travel:

Is COVID-19 spreading in the area where you're going?

If COVID-19 is spreading at your destination, but not where you live, you may be more likely to get infected if you travel there than if you stay home. If you have questions about your destination, you should check your destination's local health department website for more information.

Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?

Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like coronavirus may increase in crowded settings, particularly closed-in settings with little air circulation. This may include settings such as conferences, public events (like concerts and sporting events), religious gatherings, public spaces (like movie theatres and shopping malls), and public transportation (like buses, metro, trains).

Are you or your travel companion(s) more likely to get severe illness if you get COVID-19?

People at higher risk for severe disease are older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes). CDC recommends that travelers at higher risk for COVID-19 complications avoid all cruise travel and nonessential air travel.

Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19?

If you have close contact with someone with COVID-19 during travel, you may be asked to stay home to self-monitor and avoid contact with others for up to 14 days after travel. If you become sick with COVID-19, you may be unable to go to work or school until you're considered noninfectious. You will be asked to avoid contact with others (including being in public places) during this period of infectiousness.

Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition?

If you get sick with COVID-19 upon your return from travel, your household contacts may be at risk of infection. Household contacts who are older adults or persons of any age with severe chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 spreading where I live when I return from travel?

Consider the risk of passing COVID-19 to others during travel, particularly if you will be in close contact with people who are older adults or have severe chronic health condition These people are at higher risk of getting very sick. If your symptoms are mild or you don't have a fever, you may not realize you are infectious.

Additional travel resources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html